I don’t know what phase of life you’re in, but for my friends and me, the word “engagement” means a rock on a ring and a ton of likes on Facebook.
I rarely think of the other meaning—devoting wholehearted attention to something. When we “engage” in something, we put our whole selves into it. When we engage with someone, we give him or her our undivided attention by talking and listening in turn.
Engaging with people is really what builds relationships. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mother and son, husband and wife, or two friends, intentional conversation is vital to cultivating anything positive we could want in relationships—trust, friendship, support, love…on and on. But we often find these things lacking because we have a hard time fully investing ourselves when we’re around people. There are many many factors that play into this struggle to form healthy relationships, but one that’s gotten a lot of attention recently is technology and how it’s wedged itself in the middle of our lives.
I’ve been seeing so much backlash on the internet regarding technology and how it completely ruins us socially. I run across these kinds of pictures all the time, showing how we care more about our phones than each other…
And it’s a real problem. Really, it is. And I’m 100% guilty of it too. I think it’s safe to say almost all of us find ourselves on our phones when we should be focusing on the people around us. But the phones themselves aren’t the real issue here.
This is the issue: we use technology as an excuse. Yes, our phones are “smart,” but our brains are still smarter. Technology consumes our time because it’s what we have right now to distract us in 2014. We’ll use whatever we have wherever we are. Why don’t you see passengers chatting with each other on plane rides? They often don’t have phones, but they have books and movies and games and sleep that do the job of distraction just fine.
Sometimes we’ll do just about anything to avoid engaging with other people—especially strangers.
Take a look at these pictures…
I find these images so telling. Phones are just the distraction that’s in front of us at the moment. And if we keep blaming our struggle with engagement on something physical—be it phones or newspapers—we’ll never fix the real problem.
The problem is fixed by realizing it’s us. By realizing that engaging in others takes work, and it takes choosing to not be distracted when we shouldn’t be. It takes telling yourself Get to know this person! And then actually following through with it.
As long as we have something else to blame, we’ll never blame ourselves. But it’s our decision to make engagement a daily action with friends, strangers, coworkers… and whoever else God drops in our path.